CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Spurred by the success in Maine and about $1.2 million in business contributions, New Hampshire is poised to put laptop computers in the laps of about 600 seventh-graders.

The program was announced in September, and Wednesday, Gov. Craig Benson introduced the 24 businesses that are donating as much as $100,000 each to lease the computers for four years for five schools.

After four years, the state will see if the program did any good for the education of the seventh graders.

If so, “we’ll see if we can get more schools involved,” Benson said.

“The idea for this came from our neighboring state of Maine,” he said, where the results have been “unbelievable.”

Although individual schools and school districts in the country have worked with computer companies on similar programs, Maine was the only state until now that introduced the program statewide. It began last year by giving laptops to 17,000 seventh-graders and 3,000 teachers in all the state’s public schools. It was such a success, Maine is expanding the program to eight-graders this year with another 16,000 laptops.

Benson cited a drop in absenteeism, tardiness and disciplinary situations. He said grades also improved as a result of the Maine program.

In New Hampshire, 23 schools in districts with the highest property tax burden and lowest scores on the sixth-grade state academic tests were picked to compete for the program. Fourteen submitted proposals on how they will use the laptops. Benson, three teachers and three business people will pick the five winners next month.

The schools will get the computers in January.

In addition, computer manufacturers competing to be the supplier showed off their products at the gathering Wednesday. Benson probably will make that choice.

In some schools, all the computers are in a technical laboratory instead of individual classrooms. Under the laptop program, schools can put them in classrooms or let pupils take them home.

“This really puts power in their hands,” Benson said of the pupils.


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